Buddhist Heaven & Hell Garden

Wat Mae Kaet Noi – just a short drive north of Chiang Mai, looks like an ordinary upcountry Thailand Buddhist temple from the road. The main temple buildings, monks wandering around the temple grounds, lay people paying their respects and consulting with the monks, also seem to be very ordinary. But fairly soon after you arrive, a polite elderly man with a knowing smile greets you and tells you the garden entrance is in this direction.

The Buddhist Hell Garden – Once you have entered the garden, the world takes an abrupt turn into “the twilight zone”, “the outer limits” and Hugh Hefner’s private stash of illegal pornographic works of art. The shocking, heart wrenching, decidedly pornographic, and demonic statues are designed to be lessons for Buddhists to learn the consequences of living a life of sin. Parents bring their children (in hopes of scaring any ideas of committing these sins out of them) and schools make outings, complete with note taking and discussions. Everything is in full life size and often so realistic, you can easily imagine having met some of these tortured souls in real life.

Students and Teachers – a very direct message for all the students who come to this temple to learn about the repercussions of leading a bad life.

Consequences of having lived a bad life – the tortures to be endured in Buddhist Hell are detailed and well maintained, many of the exhibits have mechanical and electric light components which can be activated by inserting a ten baht coin into a slot like you would find at a laundromat.

Nang Mai – tree or wood spirits – I don’t know the complete story behind this woodland nymphs growing from a tree exhibit yet, but I will add it as as I find more information. In general the tree spirits are known as Nang Mai (Lady of the Tree) and there are two main tree spirits in Thailand. Nang Tani is the spirit of the Banana tree. Nang Ta-khian is the spirit of the Ta-khian tree which is very large in size and can live for centuries.  I am still a bit confused about the exhibit below because it is a large tree, but the leaves on the tree look like from a Banana tree. The leaves they are wearing look like they are from a Bodhi tree and so do the tentacles. The Nang Tani is wearing banana leaves. Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nang_Ta-khian.

Sex related crimes and punishment – some of the exhibits are fairly pornographic and disturbingly realistic.

More images and information will be added after a repeat visit. I have to admit that my first visit a few days ago was quite overwhelming and also kind of mind numbing. I have been to a number of Hell Gardens before, but none that I have been as realistic and gruesome as this one.

For print or reproduction rights, please contact George Mann Photo.